The Minute Magazine Nov Dec 2017

Page 1

Nov/Dec 2017 Volume 12, Issue 6


Home for



Sara McDaniel opens her heart and her home, a beautifully restored 1926 cottage in Minden, Louisiana


LOCATIONS ARCADIA (318) 263-8477

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GBT’s dedication to hometown is best expressed by our staff. These folks were born and raised in Minden and Sibley. You went to school with us. Now, you can earn back (up $50.00 per statement You know our kids 1% andcash our parents. Youto see us at church, at the grocery store andon at all community events. To us, youcard are more than just a customer. cycle) signature-based debit transactions. No monthly service charge GBT is proud to serve our neighbors Minimum of $100.00 required to open. and friends, and our staff has the experience and the products to take care of all your financial needs. We No minimum balance requirements. Free offere-statements. consumer and commercial loans and deposits, long-term home Free on-line banking & bill pay. financing, insurance and investments. You can visit any of our branches, Free mobile banking with mobile deposit. or you can use our online and mobile options or our full service ATM’s. Free account alerts.

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nature-based debit card transactions are transactions where you do not enter your pin to process the transaction. Transactions include online transactions, ‘point of sale’ transactions where you choose credit or for the transaction to be processed as a credit or where you sign to authorize the transaction rather than enter your PIN. Only transactions received by GBT as a signature based debit card transaction will qualify cash back. Transactions must post to and clear your account during the statement cycle. No cash will be earned on debit card transactions where your PIN is used or any other type of electronic transactions. Cash wards will be credited to the account the day after the statement drops.

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Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas! Thank you for the amazing memories we made in 2017!



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Sara McDaniel Heather McHorter Bailey Melanie Massey Groves & Brian Russell, MOCO


6 5 Reasons to Send Christmas Cards Tiffany Byram

12 Stuffed Pumpkins

Heather McHorter Bailey, Social Bites

16 Home for the Holidays

Sara McDaniel of Simply Sara

30 The Power of Proximity

Barbara Durbin Winnie Griggs Yvette Hardy Penny Jones Jason McReynolds Rachel Pardue Darla Upton

Melanie Massey Groves & Brian Russell, MOCO

Office Phone: 504.390.2585 Ad Sales: 318.548.2693 Address: P.O. Box 961, Belle Chasse, LA 70037


For a list of locations near you, or to catch up on past issues, like us on Facebook or visit Interested in writing for The Minute or have a great feature story idea? Email Tiffany Byram at

The Minute Magazine is distributed throughout Caddo, Bossier, Claiborne, Bienville, Ouachita, Webster, & Lincoln Parishes in Louisiana. They are FREE for you to enjoy. Take some to your friends, relatives or anyone else who needs a refreshing, enlightening “minute.� Copyright 2017. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be copied or reproduced without permission. The Minute Magazine cannot be responsible for unsolicited materials. The editorial content of The Minute is prepared in accordance with the highest standards of journalistic accuracy. Readers are cautioned, however, not to use any information from the magazine as a substitute for expert opinion, technical information or advice. The Minute cannot be responsible for negligent acts, errors and omissions. The opinions expressed in The Minute are those of our writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. The publisher has the right to accept or reject any advertising and / or editorial submitted.


agic. That's how I describe Christmas these days. With 3 little boys under the age of 4, it's so heartwarming to view Christmas through their eyes. My littles get so excited about big days. Whether it's a birthday, Halloween, Turkey Day, or Christmas, they are ready to party and need very little encouragement to do so. We count down the days with our toy advent calendars, add more decorations to the house, and bake lots of sweets and treats. Watching their big, beautiful eyes twinkle as I wipe their messy little icing covered faces, I realize just how special these moments are. The moments we are at home for the holidays. Making smores in the chilly night air, snuggling together under piles of blankets, watching Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer for the twentieth time, and hanging Christmas cards on the mantle as they arrive... whatever you do this season, may it be filled with warmth and happiness. From our home to yours, Merry Christmas and God bless each of you this holiday season.


blissful chaos written by Yvette Hardy

FALLING... Apart, Backward, To Pieces, Forward & Together


ometimes as women, we can get completely overwhelmed, especially during this time of year. We are usually the ones that run the home, even if we have an outside job. We make sure supper is served, husbands are happy, and kids are keeping up with homework. We are peacemakers, party planners, chauffeurs and chefs, cooks, caregivers, bakers and cleaners. We do laundry, vomit, snot, sticky hands, and stinky derrières, and very little us! We are pulled in all different directions, and none of them are towards a day just for us. Honestly, some of us may be to the point where we wouldn’t even know what that looked like! You see, as women, we “fall” a lot. Sometimes we fall into habits we don’t like or fall away from friends that used to be so very important to our lives. We are busy people with little time. We have families and obligations. Sometimes we fall to pieces. Especially when we think everyone we know has it ALL together…I mean haven’t you seen Facebook and Instagram? Today, I want us to fall forward, into a new way of thinking together. I want us to start living intentional and helping one another out. This is the best way I know to help ourselves out as well as someone else along the way! And let’s not just make this a priority during the holidays when it is the “good” thing to do. We may help a needy family with food for Thanksgiving or we may buy toys for kids at Christmas. And that is a great thing. But don’t stop at the end of the holidays. Let’s live intentional the entire year. What does that mean, you say? It means, don’t just LET your day happen. Make it happen, to the best of your ability, to be a great day. Always


remember, this is the day the Lord has made. We should rejoice and BE glad in it. Every day won’t be great, we all know that. But one part of your day shouldn’t ruin the whole 24 hours. Remember we will never get this day back. Look for the good. Make it a point to go out of your way to be intentional with someone else. Tell someone at work that you admire them for this, that or the other. Can’t find anything you admire? Tell them you like their new blouse or hairstyle. See a new mom struggling at church or the mall? Tell them “this too shall pass.” Relate to them if you’ve had kids and know the struggles. Pay for the food of the driver behind you in the drive-thru line. Send a note of thanks to your hairdresser for always getting you in and making a beautiful you. Be that person that spreads cheer wherever you go. And what about being intentional with those closest to you? Like telling your husband you appreciate his hard work for the family. Or telling the kids how proud you are that they are YOURS?

You see, chances are, we have all either just been through something, are going through something now, or are about to go through something. By being intentional and helping and encouraging one another, we can help ourselves as well. It puts our focus somewhere other than our own problems. And it can mean the world to someone else.

In Titus 2 we learn that the older women are to be role models for the younger, teaching and training them as they go. Basically, I believe that God was trying to tell us that women sticking together make stronger women. Women who help one another make huge impacts on others. As women, we touch so many people’s lives daily – either negatively or positively. The stronger bonds we have with one another, the better the relationships we have with our husbands, children, and co-workers.

Wouldn’t it be easier if we helped one another out along the way? If we lived intentionally and not just for ourselves? If we had that someone to go to for Godly wisdom and support? We, as women, need to be that for one another. We need not wait to be asked. We need to step up and live intentional now! Live large, love well, and lift others!

I am that woman who spent so much time investing in her family and missed the opportunity to invest in other women. I am that woman who looks at others and wonders…”wow, if I only had their _______, _________, or ________?” (Finances, confidence, flat stomach…you fill in the blank). So what to do about it? I start again. I don’t fall back; I fall forward. I look at other women as a gift that I can learn from but also give to. I find ways that we can traverse this journey together to help soften the blows and the hardships as well as celebrate the victories.


Yvette is a mom to 3 brown-eyed beauties, a wife to a hard-working "Louisiana oil-man," a sister to two crazy gals, an aunt to many, and a child of the One True King. These are just some of the titles she holds humbly, and near & dear to her heart. She's still chasing a few dreams (even at her age), and trying to live intentionally! Yvette is a lover of all things old, southern hospitality, a gypsy at heart and happy in boots or heels! She is a nurse and the owner of Fashion on the Fly online boutique with a mobile fashion truck on the way.

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strangers at my


written by Darla Upton Best Laid Present Plans


very single year I say I’m going to stop buying Christmas gifts. I talk on and on about taking all the money I would usually spend on gifts and instead use it to take a mini-vacation. Every. Single. Year. From November 1st right up until December 25th. I tell not just the little beggar at my house, but also the crumb grabbers that reside at my sister’s house. I give the same rant, “This is the last year! Ya’ll better all get ready! Next year, no more gifts. Don’t buy me any and I’m not buying you any! Nope. Not doing it! We can all take our money and go somewhere fun.” I even get slap happy when giving this speech and declare, “Heck, we can all go somewhere together!” Now, my Christmas budget isn’t disgustingly handsome. No one is going to take my Christmas budget to Italy or anything. I’m not real sure I can get out of the other side of Texas on it, to be honest. All I do know is the money used buying gifts for my one child, my sister’s litter of six, my mom and her three husbands and my own baby’s daddy will surely cover the cost of a hotel room for a few days. Now, add in gifts for all their birthdays, because you know every dang one of them just about has a birthday right smack in the middle of the holidays, I might be able to get a room with a jacuzzi tub, y’all! When you add up the good gifts for the people I love and the okay gifts for the people I only like and the cheap gifts for people who bring me a gift unexpectedly and I have to reciprocate all equals a trip to New Orleans, at least. Or maybe a trip to Arkansas to stay in one of those treehouses. Oooh, or maybe go to Missouri along


the Mississippi River to watch bald eagles migrate. Yes, I’ve researched this a time or two. All I’m saying is, I’d dart over to Dallas and act like I’ve never been before if it’d get me out of exchanging gifts! I used to believe if I shopped throughout the year for things then I wouldn’t be so bitter. I wouldn’t feel so broke spreading it out. Women that look very happy during the holidays tell me this. I know because I’ve asked them why they look so happy. They weave this tale that if I shop early, I can kick back and act like Oprah, pitching gifts and yelling, “You get a gift! You get a gift!” Those women are liars. Because money isn’t the only reason I hate buying gifts. I hate the shopping part, too. Online or in a store, it doesn’t matter, I hate them both. In the store, I always feel like I could’ve found a better gift online. When I’m online, I spend hours flipping through websites convinced the next one will have the perfect, cool gift that will have my preteen niece singing as she dances around the tree. But ya know what? When was the last time you danced around the tree over a gift? I was nine and got the Barbie head with makeup and the Barbie bridal trunk! The money, the search, the wrapping paper, and the bows, it all gives me anxiety! But what truly makes me want to skip town is opening gifts. Not

the gifts I picked out and wrapped for myself. I’m talking about a box on your lap and you don’t have a clue what is inside. Before I pull the ribbon on the bow, I plaster a fake smile on my face. I know the money, time and effort that goes into giving a gift and I want them to feel my appreciation. I may oversell it a bit, though because now, I have 72 bubble bath baskets under my sink and a staggering number of scarves in my closet. And an ulcer from trying to find the perfect gift while also acting like I’m getting the perfect gift. One year, I even got my sister riled up! We were giddy exchanging travel ideas. No Christmas gifts! No birthday presents! Only room service and indoor pools! We told the kids they were getting the gift of adventure! We danced around the tree. Then, that woman who gives cash in a card as a gift called! She hasn’t been shopping in decades! She claimed we were ruining her grandkids’ Christmas. Wouldn’t even look at the financial pie chart or resort brochures! Proceeded to tell us how to spend our Christmas! Well, you can imagine how that went..... Christmas dinner is at her house and after dinner and dessert, we exchange gifts. --------------------------------------------------

Darla lives in Jefferson, Texas, where she raises her son, Atticus Gregory, with her significant other, Hugh Lewis II. She lived a decade in NC and a short time in Houston. Eventually she returned to her hometown of Texarkana, where she met Hugh while working at the Texarkana Gazette. When they met, Hugh was also the owner of the McKay House Bed & Breakfast. After 10 years in the B&B business they quit. Now, they live in a historic downtown building with a yorkie, a great dane puppy, two cats and a tween son. And vodka and a typewriter.

City of Jefferson Upcoming Events Hometown Christmas Parade November 25th, 2017 @ 6pm

I Spy Christmas Treasures Salon Rouge - December 9th, 2017 @ 10am

35th Annual Candlelight Tour of HomesÂŽ

November 30th - December 2nd & December 7th - 9th

East Texas Performing Arts Christmas Belles December 1st & 2nd, 7th, 8th & 9th


More info at: 903-665-3733 11


• 3 small pie pumpkins (about 2 pounds each) • 1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage • 1 pound fresh mushrooms, chopped • 2 medium onions, chopped • 1 medium green pepper, chopped • 2 garlic cloves, minced • 4 cups cooked long grain rice • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten • 2 teaspoons salt • 1 teaspoon pepper • 1/4 teaspoon allspice (optional) • Fresh thyme


• Preheat oven to 450°. Cut a 3-in. circle around each pumpkin stem. Remove tops and set aside. Remove strings and seeds from pumpkins; discard seeds or save for toasting. • In a large skillet, cook sausage, vegetables and garlic over medium heat 6-8 minutes or until sausage is no longer pink, breaking up sausage into crumbles; drain. Remove from heat; stir in rice, 3/4 cup cheese, eggs, parsley, and seasonings • Place pumpkins in a baking dish, fill with rice mixture. Replace pumpkin tops. Bake 30 minutes. • Reduce oven setting to 350°. Bake 25-35 minutes longer or until pumpkin is tender when pierced with a knife and a thermometer inserted in filling reads 160°. Sprinkle remaining cheese over filling and garnish with fresh thyme. • To serve, remove rice. Scoop out pumpkin and serve with rice. Yield: 12 servings SHOP LOCAL! Cutting board from local company @rabbitrun Mini Pumpkins from Townsend House Ruston




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November 10th 11th 12th

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November 24th & 25th


December 8th, 9th, 10th



a collage of southern stories and recipes:

seasoned moments written by Barbara Durbin

A Fond Farewell


t saddens me to say with a great sigh, a nostalgic heartache, and tears running down my cheeks, this will be my last article for “The Minute Magazine.” This article was one of my first “memory stories” for this publication. How appropriate that it be my first and my last. I now find a season of my life has ended and a new has come. I so thank all who believed in me and allowed me to send my article for each printing of this magazine. Thank you to the editor, Tiffany, for bearing with me when I am sure it would have been easier not to. Thank you to Vicki. My precious personal reminder to “get ‘er dun.” Thank you both for the flowers, kind words, and encouragement. All of which were precious as I walked many of the tests in life. Thank you, most of all, for believing I could write. Thank you to each of the unknown readers. I may not know your name, but you became an integral part of my heart. If you followed my “stories,” as my mom called them, then you have buried in your memories portions of my life, from “Erupting Blueberries” to “Mama’s Moving Biscuits.” You have been my motivation. The reason I continue to write. Perhaps someday there will be a “Seasoned Moments” cookbook. You may find it at that “crazy woman who thinks she is a public speaker” place. You all have traipsed life with me for the last five years. It has been a good walkabout. May I have left you inspired with hope for bad times, and how to love even in hard times, for that was certainly my intent. ------------------------------------------------


Christmas Past: A Southern Christmas Memory


hristmas for me was walking in the woods as a child and discovering wild bushes covered in bright red berries and thinking God put them there just for me; because he knew I liked the color red. It was the chill of a soft gray winter rain as it gently fell on my uplifted face while I raised my hands to a Heavenly Father I wasn’t even sure at the time knew my name. It was the poignant memories of family laughing, joking, and sharing love even when the word was not mentioned. It is the memories of times gone by, seasons past, an era forgotten except in the coffers of my memory. Holidays were aromas. Scents of cooking ham or turkey, candied yams, peas and cornbread dressing. The pungent odor of turnip greens as their steam wafted across nostrils cherry red from the frosty damp air. It was the scream when we found brother had opened all the presents and then tried to pretend he had actually helped you open them. It was that same brother, who years later, walked to town and sent chocolate covered cherries to a little sister. That tiny sibling who did not have a gift to carry to school. Seasons when rambunctious cousins chased you through the piney woods and into bramble and brier patches. It was laughter filling the air as children pressed the mat of God’s late autumn carpet under their feet.

Where in the successful road of life did we leave our precious, priceless past? You know the part where going to Grandma’s was really something to do; when visiting was not by phone, texting, or Twitter, but in person. It was a time when you visited with a cake or extra food or extra blankets for the extra company. A time when friend and foe alike lay side by side at Grandma’s as twenty-five folk with the same DNA tried to squeeze onto pallets, beds, and a sofa in a three bedroom house on Christmas Eve. Did we forget to hang on to the past as we reached for the future? As we breezed through the years, was it the “high life” of the 60’s; the “disco dumping” 70’s; the “frazzled” 80’s; or the “Gulf-torn” 90’s that caused us to forget. Was it the turn of a new century that made us disremember a way of life? A manner of life which is no longer found? Is there really a way to go back? I don’t know about going back but I am going to be very busy this season making new memories. I intend to show my grandchildren some of those red yaupon berries and how to find the moss which really does grow on trees. We will walk through the tall pines of north Louisiana to a place where the black locust trees intertwine. We will stand on the high clay banks of Dudgemona Swamp to see what we can see. We are going to lift our faces to the shining sun or the hazy gray rain and raise hands in praise to an almighty God. To the eternal personal God. The one who does know our name and gives life eternal in His Son’s name. From my house to yours, may your Christmas be merry in Christ. ----------------------------------------------------

Barbara Durbin is a legal secretary and a published newspaper and magazine columnist. When not at her "real job", she works on her baskets filled with vintage books/ china for "The Vintage Bee." She loves a walk in the woods and her time with God. Barbara and her husband have four children, eight grandchildren and a dappled dachshund named Bella. Look for her on facebook and follow her "Pocket Full of Moment" comments.



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I’d be spending Christmas 2017, NEVER would I have told you in a beautifully restored 1926 cottage in the seat of Webster Parish. Never. I said more than once when I left Louisiana I would never return (to live). But a funny thing happens as you get older. Priorities shift, life happens, and you find yourself longing for home, surrounded by those who love you most. It’s been almost four years since the Lord laid a return home to Louisiana on my heart and just over a year since I traded the palm trees on the south Texas coast for the towering pines of north Louisiana. Over the course of 2017, I’ve found myself shedding joyous tears, silently whispering, “This was the right decision. This was the right decision.” It was TERRIFYING for me to return to Webster Parish. I’m a totally different person than I was when I left in 1995, returned in 1998, only to leave again in 2001. I worried about where I’d go to church, who I’d be friends with, and acclimating to an area I really only knew as a younger, naïve me. I worried about leaving all the amenities Texas offers. Yet that still, small voice continued



to whisper Louisiana into my spirit. And even though the two year wait for my cottage nearly DID. ME. IN., I felt in my bones it was going to work out, and it did! Even better than I expected! All of my fears were unmet (Isn’t this almost always the case!?) and returning to Louisiana has been one of THE best decisions I’ve ever made. Words cannot express how full my heart is, for so many reasons. As I reflect on 2017, it has been an absolute whirlwind. I started this year recovering from (what should have been) minor surgery (but turned into a major ordeal). To be near my parents during my recovery period was TRULY a gift from God and definitely timing He perfectly orchestrated. In the midst of that, major renovations started on the cottage. I’ve renovated and/or built houses in the past, so I knew what I was up against, but what I didn’t know was just how SMOOTHLY everything was going to go! What an immense surprise further attesting to the faithfulness of the Lord’s will and timing! I directly contribute this to my team of local, Minden area subcontractors who EACH went above and beyond to exceed my expectations. I had to place my absolute trust in each of them since I was unavailable during the week, most every week, to oversee the project (due to my work commitments). I was in constant communication with them, making decisions, checking on progress, etc. Each subcontractor was always happy to oblige and provide any information I needed. And what has resulted is an amazingly restored, 1926 Louisiana cottage that I’m SO proud of! Sometimes when I’ve been there, alone in the quiet, I just have to pinch myself. “The Wait” was SO long, but it was SO worth it! Even though I’ve always come home to my parents’ during Christmas, “home for the holidays” carries a much deeper meaning this year. Want to know a sad, random fact? I haven’t decorated for Christmas or put up a tree since 2009. That’s terrible, I know. But I found myself rarely home during the month of December due to traveling for work. Then, I typically have come home to Springhill for the last two to three weeks of the month and into early January. So I really couldn’t see the point of “going all out” when I wouldn’t be there to enjoy it. But this year, being home for the holidays truly does mean being HOME. It means for the first time in eight years; I will decorate for Christmas. And oh y’all, my heart is leaping! I cannot wait to cut down some cedar trees and flank the cottage with holly and mistletoe. I’ve literally been playing Christmas music since July! I’ve always known Minden to go all out at Christmas. I love the soldiers that flank the downtown area and the garland that wraps the street lamps. I love the way


the downtown businesses transform Main Street into a Department 56 shopping experience. Directly across the street from the cottage is Academy Park. It’s like a dream other times during the year, but during Christmas, Minden transforms it into a lighted wonderland. I’ve seen it before, but seeing it last year for the first time since owning the cottage, was magical. For at least six weeks, I’ll get to stare out of my massive bank of front porch windows, snuggled by the fire, hot chocolate in hand and gaze at Academy Park all dressed up for Christmas. Christmas 2017 will definitely go down as one of the most meaningful holidays of my life. For the first time in a very long time, I will be home for the holidays. Home in my cottage, which I wholeheartedly believe, was carefully orchestrated for my path long before it was ever on my radar. I’ve witnessed, first hand, divine appointments, and bountiful blessings, all directly stemming from this little, white house on the edge of Academy Park. I will be home with my family. Time will be plentiful for cooking and watching all those Hallmark movies with my mom. I’ll be home in Webster Parish for the first of many, many quintessential holiday seasons. I’ll be home for the holidays, and my heart couldn’t be more content. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

December 9th, from 2:00-6:00 pm, is the annual Minden Historic Residential District’s Christmas Tour of Homes. In addition to the cottage, you’ll tour three other amazing historic homes, all within walking distance around Academy Park! Come see The Bates-FogleIrving House was built in 1845 and is said to be one of the oldest houses still standing in north Louisiana. The Searles-Reeder-Crichton-McCullough Home was built in the 1890’s, later burned and rebuilt-TWICE, and was remodeled in the 2000’s by the current owners. And The Miller House, over 100 years old, is newly renovated, and has never been open to the public. There’ll also be carolers, hot chocolate and Christmas cookies a plenty. We would love to see you!







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Keep Christ in Christmas???


ou’ve seen those bumper stickers, right? They say, “Keep Christ in Christmas.” That seems strange to me. If you take Christ out of Christmas, you’d just have “mas.” Get it? My kids think it’s funny. Isn’t the word Christmas just Spanish for “more Christ”? My oldest child was the only one that understood that one. He didn’t think it was funny. But, here’s what I tell my congregation all the time when they don’t laugh at my jokes. “I’m funny, you just don’t know it yet.” I do have an issue with the bumper sticker though. What is the target audience for those stickers? People who truly follow Jesus don’t need that. They keep Christ in Christmas. Agnostics don’t care. Atheists don’t believe, so Jesus was never in their Christmas. What percentage of people are on the fence about Jesus’ involvement in Christmas? I’m willing to bet that we’re targeting a pretty small group of people. I can just imagine a millennial sitting in his recliner stroking his bearded chin and contemplating just how Jesus fits into his understanding of Christmas. Maybe he was raised in a church and is now struggling with his belief in Christ. Maybe it’s a fleeting thought that becomes usurped by the bounty of gifts he’ll undoubtedly receive, and he decides to just let it ride without torturing himself any longer. Now, I understand the concept. We’re overwhelmed with everything other than celebrating and focusing on Jesus during Christmas. There’s always more and more pressure to get that one last person a present. We always need to spend just a little bit more because they did that for us last year. There’s all the travel to visit family near and far. There’s all the food (and football). Time flies around Christmas. Next thing you know we’re looking back trying to


remember if we even acknowledged Jesus during Christmas. Yes, I get the bumper sticker. But let me ask you this, what are you going to do about it? Christmas is coming fast. Chances are you’ve already made your plans. I bet they’re the same plans as last year or at least pretty stinking close, right? My family does the same thing every year. It’s tradition. If your family is like mine, then you don’t change tradition. Every family turns into the mafia around Christmas time, doesn’t it? You can just imagine Marlon Brando (or your elderly aunt Gertrude) looking you in the eyes asking, “You want who to read the Christmas story this year? How have I failed you? Have I not knitted you enough mittens to make you happy? And now you want to toss me to the side like trash. Forget that I’ve read the Christmas story for the past four decades. I’ll just go lie down in my coffin now because you might as well be killing me!” At which point you obviously relent and never bring it up again. Family tradition is difficult to change but adding to it isn’t hard at all. Or creating changes within your immediate family. That is completely under your own control. Whether it’s you and the dog, you and your spouse, or you and your spouse and 20 kids, that’s a situation you own. You’re the man/woman of your own house! You can celebrate the birth of Jesus however you want. My family has used the Playschool plastic manger set, we’ve read the bible, we’ve read pop-up books about the birth of Jesus, etc. In fact, I can’t

remember a single Christmas season where we’ve done the same thing. Now, to be fair, that’s mainly because we can’t find the materials that we used the previous year, so we are forced to be creative. I’ve done it myself; my children have done it, our aunt even did a Cajun Christmas one year. And, no little bumper sticker, we don’t do it just that night. We talk about Jesus all throughout the Christmas season (and throughout the year). That’s probably expected from a pastor. But we don’t do anything you can’t do. And that’s the whole point I guess I’m trying to make here. You can’t force anyone else to “keep Christ in Christmas” but you can be the example of what it looks like to follow Christ during the Christmas season. It seems that we lose sight of Jesus more at Christmas than any other time. Jesus didn’t leave Heaven to be born in a muddy, nasty barn and world and to die on a cross so we could spend a ton of money on electronics. The devil loves to get us busy and distracted because it keeps us from spending time with Jesus. But all we have to do is be intentional. We buy each of our children 3 gifts each to remind them of the 3 gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh given to Jesus. We focus on Jesus more than consumerism or the stress or even the family. You can do that. Purposely acknowledge Jesus every minute of every day from Thanksgiving through New Year’s and then throughout the year to follow. Then, when you see that little bumper sticker, you can breathe a sigh of fake relief knowing that you aren’t the person it’s talking to. ----------------------------------------------------

Jason McReynolds is the pastor of New Orleans Community Church. He and his wife, Liev, have two boys and one little girl. Jason enjoys hanging out with his family and friends, watching and/ or playing any kind of sports, and taking his wife out on dates. To learn more about him, or NOCC, visit:



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Happy Holidays


very Friday night on Babson’s College Campus in Wellesley, Massachusetts, there’s an event in our interfaith chapel called Shabbat, a dinner that starts the Jewish Sabbath, or day of rest. When I was first touring the college, I was shocked by the look of the interfaith chapel. From the street, it looked like a grey square prison cube with no windows, and it evoked none of the warm, welcoming feelings like the tiny red brick churches with their beautiful white steeples and stained glass murals I was accustomed to back home. A few weeks into college, a friend of mine from Brazil invited me to come to her church. It wasn’t until I got there that I learned the church service was entirely in Portuguese, and everyone in the congregation had just moved to America within the last five years to form their own Protestant Brazilian church in Massachusetts. The pastor’s wife sat beside me and translated the entire service, and she even invited me to their home for lunch after. The second church service I went to was with one of my best friends who is Catholic. For the first time, I walked into my college’s gloomy, stone, interfaith chapel and learned that on the back side of that depressing block is the most beautiful display of stained glass that I had ever seen. It completely covers two walls and towers at least 50 feet tall. On the ceiling, a giant wooden boat stretches from wall to wall, so it feels as if you’re in the deep sea looking up at the bottom of a ship as the stained glass creates the effect of morning sun casting bright flickers of color on water. I found a seat and experienced my first Catholic sermon which included a theology lesson that was different from the more personal testimonial I was used to, but I loved it. The third new spiritual experience I had at Babson was when a friend of mine invited me to attend Shabbat. As I sat through the Hebrew prayers, broke the bread, and drank the wine, I looked around the room to see that easily


half of the people also didn’t have the prayers memorized and weren’t Jewish. Once the amazing dinner of challah, falafels, and latkes was served, we all sat around the table talking about our different backgrounds, cultures, and faiths. Tonight, I went back to Shabbat for my third or fourth time in the two and a half years I’ve been here. We once again enjoyed the delicious meal in a room that was filled with half non-Jewish people. My friend saw me looking at the booklet of Hebrew prayers. She said, “You know, there are a lot of people who want Shabbat to be more religious. But what I think is important is that at a college where people come from all parts of the US and the world who have never met a Jewish person, now have a place to come sit down, eat with us, and see our faces. Judaism is no longer a distant, foreign idea but instead a friend they have and a meal they’ve eaten.” Similarly, our Muslim Student Association, which is led by one of my closest friends, Iman, only has 20 practicing Muslim’s in their organization. However, she and the MSA members hold an Eid dinner that celebrates the end of Ramadan, and about 200 students attend to gain a better understanding of Islam and join them in the peace of interfaith friendship. It’s easy to underestimate the compassion that arises from intercultural friendships, but the world’s greatest tragedies have occurred over a fight for who has the moral high ground. This is as important now as it has ever been as an entire population of the Rohingya people, a mostly Muslim minority, in Myanmar (a Buddhist country) have been denied education,

employment, and are being killed and raped by Myanmar’s military in an act of ethnic cleansing that seeks to push the Muslim population entirely out of Myanmar. Michael Chertoff, former secretary of Homeland Security and overseer for the Center for the Prevention of Genocide said “As an institution dedicated to preserving the history of the Holocaust and to preventing genocide and mass atrocities, we are deeply concerned about the increasing concentration and segregation of the Rohingya and the escalation of hate speech and violence targeting Rohingya and Muslims generally in Burma,” While these tragedies seem like the acts of powerful governments, they stem from everyday people deciding they don’t want to coexist with people of different religions and cultures. The current Rohingya crisis is due to the Burmese people’s hate for their Muslim neighbors. Just as in 1994 the Rwandan Genocide that killed a million Tutsi people stemmed from the Hutu’s hate for their Tutsi neighbors. Just as during World War II the Holocaust originated from the German people’s hate of their Jewish Neighbors and so on and so on throughout the time of man. So this Holiday season, while people are debating if Target or Starbucks is offending Christians with their red cups, festive banners, or “Happy Holidays,” I’ll happily be wishing my friends a Happy Hanukah, Kwanzaa, and any other holiday they want to celebrate just as they’ll be wishing me a Merry Christmas. ----------------------------------------------------

Rachel Pardue is a graduate of Cedar Creek School in Ruston, Louisiana. She is an aspiring entrepreneur who is studying business at Babson College outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Babson is ranked as the #1 School for Entrepreneurship in the nation, and Rachel is attending as a Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Scholar.

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then your vision is too small. We can achieve more by investing time with the right people. Who do you spend a lot of your time with at work and during your free time? Who do you listen to? To be the best, you need to surround yourself with the best. The power of proximity is that you become the average of the five people you hang out with the most! Think about the books they read, the music they listen to, the food they eat, the types of ideas they have, the ways they spend, save, and earn money, the clothes they wear, the quality of the conversations they typically engage in, their lifestyle, etc. Now rate all of that on a scale of 0-10 for all five people, and the average is you. Are you selective about who you share your biggest dreams with? Who will you include in your goals this year? Do the people around you lift you up? A study by Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University, found that people who wrote down and shared their goals with a friend were 42% more likely to achieve them. So, if you want to improve your health, hang out with people who are physically fit. If you want to deepen your faith, spend time with people that are spiritually healthy. If you want to be more creative, spend time with creative folks. What types of marriages influence you to be a better spouse? What kinds of parents do you admire? It's hard to become an eagle if you're always hanging out with ducks! John Maxwell's "Law of the Inner Circle" says that "a leader's potential is determined by those closest to him". Here are some questions to consider about your inner circle: Do they only look for praise from you or candor as well? Do they drive away others when the attention isn't on them? Do they bring complementary gifts to add value to this relationship? Are they working hard to improve their life in at least one area? Do they have a positive impact on your life? Your inner circle is really a reflection of your core values. Choose wisely! Throughout the different seasons of your life, plant yourself where you want to grow. The quality of the environment that permeates your life determines the crops that are produced. You do not have to own the drama of critics! Find the group of people that believe in you, that pull you higher along the journey, and that appreciate you!

Written by Melanie Massey Groves and Brian Russell with MoCo: Leadership, Strengths, and Company Culture Coaching 30



for your thoughts written by Penny Jones

Love Arrives on a Train


wirling and falling the snowflakes come. Not in hurried disarray, but a slow memorizing manner calling for my attention. I gently slip my hands from the warm sink water. Wiping them with a towel, I lean closer to the window and stare. Though my body is present, my mind has retreated to the long ago memories of another snowy day. On a long cold morning, where my breath paints the midst in the wind, all is frozen as the snow twirls and whirls onto the cobblestone streets. I am at 5th and Main, leaving St. Marie’s Home for the Children. I am wrapped in a bundle of cloth. I long for love, and yet the only warmth I find is from Sister Florence. Her eyes always shine with love, as her hands hug in tenderness. She is my safe place. My parents died of influenza, and St. Marie’s had been my home until recently. Sister Florence slowly sank onto my bed this morning, wrapping her arms around me she whispered, “Rebecca… love… you will be getting a new mommy and daddy soon.” My voice begins to quiver as I ask, “Will I leave here?” “Yes, you will be going far away, but I will travel with you to make sure you are placed into loving arms.” That conversation is why I stand beside her as we look up one last time at the tall solid frame of St. Marie’s. I am headed to the station with many other children to catch the train in my dress made of flour sacks with shoes a size too big. I don’t really know how old I am… The nuns guess I am close to seven. Sister Florence says age doesn’t determine love, so I am not to worry. Whispers of hope and longing float softly in the rail car filled with children as the puff of the train makes its way across the landscape. The journey is beautiful but tiresome. Watching from the lead window pane, my gaze looks upon the barren ground covered in snow. The reality of life continues to barge its way into my world just as winter always seems to do the same every year. It is a time of things dying and hibernating; only the bravest, strongest, and firmly planted live. Will I survive this? Will my new mommy and daddy want me? Will I be enough? My heart longs for an answer, and all I see is winter’s blanket of snow covering the ground.


The slamming door brings me to the present, as Matthew walks into the room. “Mom, did you know it was snowing! It never snows in Louisiana! … Mom, are you okay…?” Yes, honey, I am fine… “What’s wrong? You don’t look okay. It’s the snow, isn’t it…? You always say you hate winter…especially snow.” Matthew, I am fine. Now, how about some hot chocolate and a hug since you just started the Holiday break. Slipping my arms around my seven year old son, I hand him a mug of hot chocolate as we fall carefully onto the couch. “Mom, can you tell me why you don’t like snow. You didn’t look okay earlier when I came in.” Taking a deep breathe, I relax my shoulders, and release the air from my lungs. I knew this day would come, but how and where do I begin. Matthew, it is not the snow itself that bothers me. It is the memory that it reminds me of. Do you remember how I mentioned your real Grandmother and Granddaddy died before you were born and that I was born in New York? “Yes...” When your grandparents passed, I was sent to a home for children. It was called St. Marie’s. There was a beautiful nun who cared for me until I arrived here in Opelousas. The day I left New York it was freezing, the snow was falling like it is now, and I left everything I knew. I had no idea where I was headed or who wanted me. It took me a whole week to arrive. As the train stopped and started often letting other children off, Sister Florence would look at me and say not yet. I never knew when my turn would come, but at each stop she would hold my hand. When we pulled into the train station here in Louisiana, Sister Florence squeezed my hand and said, “Rebecca, now it is your turn. “ I began to cry as I was scared of who was going to take me. She gave me a hug, and whispered “God has the perfect family for you. Do not fear!” “What happened next, Mom…?” I slowly climbed off the train nudging myself into Sister Florence’s skirt. She gently directed me to a man and a

woman. The woman was wearing a blue dress. The Man had on slacks and a white shirt with suspenders. Their coats were not buttoned. They seemed nervous, but had huge smiles on their faces. One look at the woman’s eyes, and she rushed to pick me up. That couple, is Meme and Papere. The startled blue eyes of my son looked up into my face, as I smiled into his. That Matthew, is why I do not care for the snow. I know God had a plan for me, and that he gave me two sets of parents. However, the snow always reminds me of the uncertainty I faced when I left New York and lasted until I arrived here. It is at times like these that I remind myself of God’s promises. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.“ I chose to rest in his assurance that he has our lives in the palm of his hands. “Mom?” Yes… “I love you!” I love you too! Now how about starting that homework! “Do I have too?” Yes, let’s go. *In memory of all the children who rode the orphan train, and those who opened their hearts and homes of love to them. More information can be found for those who arrived in Opelousas, Louisiana here: *Scripture Reference: Jeremiah 29:11

---------------------------------------------------Penny Jones was born and raised in Louisiana, and finds joy in the history of this unique state. She holds a degree in English from the University of Kansas CityMissouri.

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a novel approach written by Winnie Griggs Employing the Senses Part 2


n the first part of this series on senses, I discussed the five senses we normally think of – sight, sound, hearing, smell and touch. Today I’ll discuss other senses you can tap into. Yes, there are more than five. In fact, some neurologists claim there are as many as twenty-one! I won’t explore all of those today, you can google them if, like me, you find that kind of information fascinating. Instead, I’ll explore just the three additional senses that I think we writers can make the most use of.

Sense of Time

How we experience the passing of time, be it seconds or days, is a true sense. Writers use this all the time when writing phrases such as the days passed in a blur or time seemed to stand still. In doing this, we are attempting to have the readers experience the sense of time distortion with our character. Here’s an example, from my book Handpicked Husband: The scene unfolded with tortuous slowness. Each detail etched itself in her mind with gruesome vividness - the grim determination on Adam’s face, the bulging muscles in his arm as he strained to turn the tiller, the bonejarring jolts his body absorbed as the runaway motor carriage careened out of control. Then the motor carriage slammed into the wagon and time stampeded forward again. Only when Ira’s hand released hers did Reggie realize she’d been struggling to race forward. Now she picked up her skirts and dashed toward the splintered mess. Please God, let him be all right.

Sense of Equilibrium

This is what allows us to keep our balance. It also helps us to perceive gravity and the acceleration and


directional changes of our bodies. When this sense isn’t working properly, we get dizzy, disoriented and/or unusually clumsy. Often, when in the throes of some strong emotion – grief, exultation, passion – we’ll experience a temporary impairment of this sense. Here’s an example, again from my book Handpicked Husband: Something inside him, some weight that had been there so long he’d ceased to feel it, began to crumble, then evaporate entirely. His world shifted from one heartbeat to the next, leaving him with a lost, dizzy feeling and he reached for the table to steady himself.

Sense of Space

It’s how we perceive distances. And while this might, on the surface, seem to be fixed, we all have our own unique sense of space. A small vehicle might seem cramped to one person while it feels comfortingly snug to another. We all have a different sense of personal space so that when I (being southern) greet you with a hug, you may feel I’ve overstepped a boundary of sorts. And a stressful situation may make you feel like the walls are closing in or like you’re caught in a vacuum. Again, you want to use this sense to create an emotional experience your reader can relate to. This example, taken from Second Chance Hero, weaves in both the senses of time and space. For an agonizing heartbeat, as the wagon bore down on her daughter, time stopped. Verity felt every irregularity in the pebble that bit into her palm, could taste the tang of blood from where she’d bit the inside of her cheek when she fell, could see the dust motes hanging in the air before her.

Please Jesus. Please Jesus. Please Jesus. She wasn’t sure whether she was uttering the frantic prayer aloud or if it was just shrieking through her thoughts. From somewhere a woman screamed, but all sounds, save for the wagon’s relentless rumbling progress, seemed to come from a great distance as her entire world shrank to the space between herself and Joy. How could mere feet comprise such a life-or-death distance? Then, from nowhere, Mr. Cooper shot past her, and time sped up with a whoosh. He dove toward Joy, reaching her a heart-stopping split-second before the horse’s hooves would have trampled the child, pushing her out of the way. Without remembering having moved, Verity was suddenly kneeling in the road with her daughter clutched tightly against her. Her heart thudded painfully against her chest and her breath came in near-gasps. She’d come so close to losing her precious baby. She could still feel the stab of keening desolation that pierced her the moment she’d realized she couldn’t get to Joy in time, couldn’t cross those few feet that might as well have been a chasm. So there you have it, three additional senses you can weave into your work when you’re trying to layer in those emotional nuances that are so important. As always, you can contact me at for questions on this or any writing-related topic. ----------------------------------------------------

Winnie Griggs grew up in south Louisiana in an undeveloped area her friends thought of as the back of beyond. She and her siblings spent many an hour exploring the overgrown land around her home, cutting jungle trails, building forts and frontier camps, and looking for pirate ships on the nearby bayou. Once she ‘grew up’ she began capturing those wonderful adventures in the pages of her notebooks. Now a multi-published, award winning author, Winnie feels blessed to be able to share her stories with readers through her published books. You can learn more about Winnie at or connect with her at


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